This story inspired by "2 AM (Breathe)" by Anna Nalick
I’m staring at the flickering lights on the television, certain they make pictures but not coherent enough to care what they are. Blue. Red. Yellow. White. Black. Colors without form, without meaning. In the midst of taking a drink, the phone rings and my hand shakes, making the ice clink against the sides of the glass. The tang of vodka rises and I suck in a deep breath before setting it down to get the phone.
“JC, it’s me.”
Dust puffs into the air as my head falls back against the seat cushion. “It’s two in the morning, Lacey.”
“I messed up. I need your help.”
Of course you do. Why else would you call? I raise the glass of vodka, staring into its depths as it reflects the firelight, bending it into shapes…into ghosts. My lips twist into a sneer and I drain the glass, banishing the dead back to the Hell where they belong. “Where?”
“315 Parson Street. Thank you.” Her sigh of relief skips from cell tower to cell tower until it breathes in my ear.
I want to reach through the phone and strangle her. With what she’s asking of me, she shouldn’t get to feel relief. I sure as fuck won’t. But I can’t deny her, and she knows it. Bitch saves my life once and I pay forever. “On my way.” I click off the phone before she can say anything else.
More vodka would make this so much easier, dull my senses, but I can’t risk it. I don’t know what she’s sending me up against. I could have asked, but the less I know, the better I’ll sleep.
My bag slouches next to the door like it’s trying to hide—to disappear through the floorboards. As if that would make a difference. No can do, Lacey. You see, my tools…they just up and vanished. Can’t help you this time. If I said that, I’d just end up with new stuff—things that didn’t fit my hands as well. I shrug on my coat, pick up the simple black bag, and head into the night.
Snow gathers in my hair and the wind bites at my exposed skin as I stand outside 315 Parsons Street. There is a gentle glow from inside, like the entire house is lit by candles. What sort of creature lurks in the near dark?
As I realize the answer, a chill finally settles into my bones. I drag a cross from the bag and drape the chain over my head before fishing out a stake and some holy water. Lacey really did it this time. I stare at the door, wondering how to best enter, and realize I’m probably not going to survive this time.
My heartbeat slows and the chill dissipates as a smile crosses my face. This is for the best. I’ll go out fighting and finally be free of this stupid bond. Time to be bold then.
I race at the door, throwing my shoulder against it. The lock pops open and I fly into a dimly lit foyer. It is indeed candles lighting the front room. The man seated there rises to his feet, consternation writ in the line across his forehead. The simple wrinkle gives me pause.
“What are you doing in my house?” His voice is clear and strong. Dangerous.
I meet his eyes, allowing malice to fill mine. “Lacey Burton sent me.”
He has the audacity to look surprised as I leap at him, both our bodies falling against the couch and overturning it. The holy water slips from my hand, the bottle shattering on the floor. With a snarl, I raise the stake, but before I can strike, he’s flipped me over onto my back.
And then a greater fear than death hits me. What if he turns me? Life eternal. Haunted by ghosts forever.
Faces flash through my mind before I finally settle on the angry gray eyes of the man leaning over me.
No. I can’t.
Adrenaline courses through me, snapping everything into crystal clarity as I wrestle my arm free. His mouth is opening as I plunge the stake home.
His body rolls off me and I lie there for a second, panting. Then I go to my knees, wondering why he hasn’t turned to dust. Or is that just a myth? I kneel in the pool of blood to check his teeth. White, with one slightly crooked incisor, but definitely not abnormally pointed.
But he is also definitely dead. I’ll have to ask Lacey what he was so I know what else dies from a stake through the heart.
A small scuffing noise reaches my ears and I turn around. A child, no more than seven, crouches in the doorway, a worn stuffed bear dangling from her grip. One of its eyes missing, the hole sewn over in a jagged X. “Daddy?” she whimpers.
I swallow hard and will myself to disappear. I don’t have to ask Lacey now. I know the answer. A stake through the heart will kill a man, no matter what he has in his house to protect.
And I know there is one ghost that I’ll never be able to banish with a thought. The wide gray eyes staring at me from the doorway, so like her father’s, will haunt me forever.
Other than the first line, the song doesn't correlate to the story, but it is beautiful. Give it a listen here or buy it here (though I honestly recommend the whole cd).